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The Wet Cat Food Vs. Dry Cat Food Debate

Every cat parent has a different opinion on wet cat food vs. dry cat food. To understand the issues, you need to know a few things about cat nutrition.

Catster HQ  |  Oct 17th 2018


Get together a group of cat parents, and everyone will have a different opinion when it comes to wet cat food vs. dry cat food. To understand the issues with wet cat food vs. dry cat food, you need to understand the cat’s physiology.

First, what should cats eat and why? What nutrients do they need?

A hungry cat with a puzzle feeder.

Before diving into the wet cat food vs. dry cat food debate, let’s look at what nutrients cats need. Photography by Tierfotoagentur | Alamy Stock Photo.

While dogs are omnivorous and able to break down and digest both vegetable and animal protein, cats are obligate carnivores, which means that they need muscle-based meats in their diets.

Although theoretically, they might get enough protein from plant material to exist, they need the amino acid taurine in order to thrive. Taurine is found primarily in the muscle meat of animals.

Carnivores have short digestive systems because they are not required to break down the tough cellulose found in plants. Introducing cellulose into their diets invites digestive problems.

On the whole, wet cat food, with the primary ingredient being meat or fish, provides a meal that’s better suited to a cat’s dietary needs.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean that canned wet cat food is always a better choice than dry cat food. The best dry cat food is better for your cat than the worst canned food. If you feed your cat premium cat food, she is likely to thrive whether the food is in wet or dry form.

Here’s what you should consider when deciding to feed your cat wet cat food vs. dry cat food:

The Dry Cat Food Debate

A brown tabby cat eating a bowl of dry food. Photography ©g215 | Thinkstock.

Is dry cat food better for cats? Photography ©g215 | Thinkstock.

Many cat owners leave dry food out all the time for their cats. Some supplement it with wet food, some don’t. Is it the equivalent of feeding your kids a steady diet of fast food for the sake of convenience?

If your cat only eats dry food, she is likely to be getting less nutrition than a cat eating wet food. Many low-quality dry foods contain a lot of fillers. In the wild, carbohydrates are only about five percent of a cat’s diet — what she gets from ingesting the stomach contents of her prey.

Some fillers are necessary for the extrusion process that shapes the dry food nuggets during manufacturing. But they’re also included as a cost-savings, since they’re a cheaper ingredient than meat.

Dehydration and dry cat food diets

Prey consumed by wild cats is about 70 percent water. Canned wet cat food averages 78 percent, and dry cat food averages 10 percent. Cats on dry food diets usually don’t get enough water. They can become chronically dehydrated, which contributes to health problems like Chronic Renal Failure (CRF) and urinary crystals.

According to Purina, if you feed your cat dry food, she should drink approximately one cup of water for every ten pounds of body weight in a 24-hour period. In warm weather, she’ll need even more. Cats on canned food diets only need to consume one-third to one-half that amount of water.

If you feed your cat kibble, it’s essential to provide a clean, appealing source of fresh water. Pet water fountains work well in enticing cats to drink, and their filters ensure a fresh, clean water supply.

Dry cat food and cat obesity and and feline diabetes

Cats on dry food-only diets are slightly more prone to obesity and diabetes than cats who eat wet cat food. Part of this is due to the high carbohydrate levels in many kinds of kibble, and part is due to the free-choice feeding of dry cat food which gives cats 24-hour access to food.

If your cat is getting a little pudgy, ration the dry food rather than serving it all-you-can-eat style. To avoid feline diabetes, stick to a premium dry food or switch to a canned food diet.

The Wet Cat Food Debate

A closeup of a gray cat eating wet food.

Is wet cat food better for cats? Photography by africa studio/shutterstock.

So, that means wet cat food is better, right? Well, not necessarily. A very cheaply produced wet food is not better for your cat than a premium quality dry food.

Check the ingredients. It should list an animal protein source as its number one ingredient, and ideally, it should not contain meat by-products.

Some argue that a canned food diet can lead to dental problems including gingivitis, but if you adhere to a schedule of regular dental checkups and cleanings, this really isn’t an issue.

The bottom line on the wet cat food vs. dry cat food debate? Choose a premium cat food!

Ultimately, whether choosing wet cat food vs. dry cat food, it should be a premium cat food with quality ingredients. The higher initial cost will be offset long-term by reduced veterinary costs.

Tell us: What’s your opinion on wet cat food vs. dry cat food?

Thumbnail: Photography ©bluebeat76 | Thinkstock.

This piece was originally published in 2017.

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